Tulane expert talks tarot during Feminist Friday

By Hayley Vanstrum

Dr. Krystal Cleary, professor of gender and sexuality studies at Tulane University, presented her research on the tarot to the New College of Florida community during Feminist Friday last week.

Her talk, Minority Arcana: Exploring Intersectional Feminist Tarot Decks, centered the creation of tarot decks by individuals who looked to the tarot, found an absence of themselves within, and created their own decks to fill this void.

The talk began with a brief history of the tarot, which was originally created as a set of playing cards in mid-18th century Europe. Since then, people have used the set of 78 cards for therapeutic psycho-reflection, providing card holders with an accessible and affordable form of healing.

Tarot itself, Dr. Clearly affirms, has become mainstream and is not transgressive by nature, as the traditional decks enforce gender, race, sexuality and class norms. In response to this, marginalized tarot creators have remixed tarot decks in order to better embody their own lived experiences.

“Creators of these decks are making 78 interactive pieces of art that imagine the world otherwise,” Dr. Cleary stated, emphasizing the cards’ personal connection to both the artists who create them and those who use them.

Motherpeace (1978) and Daughters of the Moon (1984) were two of the original feminist tarot decks, created by women frustrated by the patriarchal images reflected on the cards. Recently, there has been a resurgence of women, people of color, queer artists, and other marginalized creators constructing their own, crowdfunded decks that better reflect them and their communities.

“With these decks, there is a more of a resistance in claiming this tool for yourself,” Dr. Cleary affirmed, explaining that the cards are “tools to use in your everyday life to deal with moments of both distress and pleasure.”

— Hayley Vanstrum is an intern in the Office of Communications and Marketing.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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